So you’re a freelancer who’s happily self-employed, earning a decent income while enjoying the flexibility of being able to set your own hours? Great.
So why do you feel so stressed out all the time?
The truth is, most people are ill-equipped to deal with the unique pressures of freelancing. At school and in employment, we learn to abide by a strict timetable and not get in trouble with authority.
But when given the sudden gift of liberty and flexibility, that doesn’t mean we no longer need to live by any rules. It means we have to learn to set our own.
Here are some ways to keep the stress at bay and become not just a successful but also a happy freelancer.
Start the day well
Whether you wake up at 6am or 12 noon, start the day on the right foot. Freelancers often lack the morning rituals salaried employees have. If you work from home, it’s likely you don’t even bother to shower, change out of your sleepwear or have breakfast half the time.
Instead of going directly to your laptop when you step out of bed, take a few minutes to indulge in a morning ritual that relaxes you and makes you feel more positive. For instance, you could do some yoga exercises, go for a run or read the news as you enjoy your first kopi of the day.
Decide on your boundaries and enforce them
As a freelancer, it’s all too easy to feel alone, so alone. Clients might refuse to pay their invoices, or be bullying or abusive. And you have to deal with this all by yourself. There’s no HR department to complain to, no colleagues to commiserate with.
Decide on where your boundaries lie—that is, figure out what behaviour is not acceptable to you. Make a list if you have to. Then make sure you enforce your boundaries without fail.
For instance, if your clients are always trying to shortchange you by getting you to do extra work that wasn’t agreed upon when you quoted them, you should not feel guilty about enforcing your boundaries or contemplate whether you should or shouldn’t say something. Tell them firmly that extra work will be chargeable. It will be better for your mental health.
Make sure you have something to look forward to every day outside of work
Office workers watch the clock until they get to knock off. When they leave the office, they get a psychological boost.
As a freelancer, you may not feel that psychological boost if you are not planning your time deliberately. Every freelancer who works from home has experienced working till the wee hours of the morning before collapsing into bed.
For your own sanity, try to find something to look forward to every day. Play a board game with your family at the end of the day, have your favourite food for lunch, watch a movie in the morning or take a few minutes out to meditate at the end of the day.
Whatever it is, you need to spend some time each day relaxing your mind. What you do could be very small and seemingly significant, but what really matters is that you give it your full attention without worrying about work.
Have a plan for your career instead plugging away blindly
The path of a salaried employee is clearer than that of a freelancer. Employees have only to look at their superiors to see what options are open to them as they climb the career ladder. They have a support network in the form of colleagues and industry friends, which can help them to clarify what lies ahead.
For freelancers, the way forward isn’t as clear. For instance, if you’re a freelance web designer, you could potentially spend the next 20 years making the exact same websites. Do you really want to do the same thing forever?
If the answer is no, you need to have a plan for your career. Are there new skills you want to develop so you can expand your portfolio? Do you want to raise your fees if you’re being underpaid right now? Do you hope to work on bigger projects with higher profile clients? Do you hope to help underprivileged people or contribute to a pet cause with your work?
Once you’ve identified the areas where growth is needed, it’s then easier to determine what steps you need to take to get there. And sometimes, that’s what you need to make work more meaningful.
How do you stay happy as a freelancer? Share your tips in the comments!